Affliction at its Best

C&S media publications | 972-442-5515 OPINION & COMMENTARY November 29 – 30, 2017 5A

article-pic Affliction at its Best

Some years ago I remember comfortably working for a company that was later purchased by a larger company, and we (the employees) were all excited for what the new and larger venture would bring. While anxiously anticipating our new welcome packets, benefits and even salary increases, we were surprised to learn that our entire office would be immediately shut down, and were all forced to find new employment somewhere. Needless to say, it was not what we desired. We faced an unwanted situation that forced us into an area of life that we were unprepared for.

Many of us know of the Apostle Paul from scripture. As a matter of fact, half of the New Testament that we read today is comprised of his letters. As bold of a man that Paul was, we often forget that he suffered from a physical ailment of some type. Although many have attempted to allude to what that ailment was, the scriptures do not confirm it. But we do know that that Paul’s ailment was major…as a matter fact, the root word Paul used for ‘thorn’ found in 1 Corinthians 12:7 describes a tent stake, something that would bring sizable affliction. And we also know that Paul continually prayed to God to remove his affliction (verse 8).

But there’s something that we learn in verse 7…that the affliction was given to Paul as a messenger from Satan. The latter part of verse 7 states, “…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” In other words it was Satan, not God, who afflicted Paul with this physical disability in order to discourage him and keep him from being effective in serving God and spreading the gospel. As we begin to think, life has dealt us many ‘afflictions’ and often forced us into many unwanted circumstances…things that we do not desire nor are we prepared for. And all of us, just like Paul, have experienced going to God and asking for His rescue. How many times can you remember asking God to take you out of a situation because the pain, suffering or inconvenience was seemingly more than you can bear? I’m pretty sure that even while you’re reading this article, there’s something in your life that you would love to see God change or remove for you.

God’s response to our dilemmas are always exactly what we need even though it may not be exactly what we want. God responded to Paul’s request in verse 9 with “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God reminded Paul that He (God) had already provided him with enough grace (goodwill, loving-kindness and favor) to strengthen and keep him through his affliction. I think that as we reminisce over our past circumstances, we can truly see how God has sustained us through times which seemed unsustainable.

But, it would be remiss of us if we overlooked this slightly unnoticeable point. It’s clear that Satan used the thorn to hinder Paul and his ministry. But because God is greater, God used that very same thorn to further the work of God’s Kingdom by keeping Paul humble…isn’t that amazing! The very thing that the devil used to defeat Paul was used to strengthen the cause of God. God is so powerful that He can take the undesired ‘forced’ situations that Satan brings us and turn them around to be used for His glory!

At the beginning of the article, I told you about an unwanted and unexpected job loss. But what I didn’t tell you was that those circumstances forced me into a better job, with better benefits and one and a half times the salary. And just like many people who suffered through the recent recession, most have recovered with jobs that are much better than that which they’ve lost. None of this would be understood unless our perspectives change. What forced situation in your life seems hopeless? What afflictions or inconveniences steal your joy? What have you been asking God to change in your life? Just remember that God is in the business of using our afflictions for His glory and our benefit!